This week we are interviewing Gina Witherow – Director at DELS.
How long have you been working at the school and how did you get involved with it?
The school was set up by mother 26 years ago so really I grew up in the business. The excitement I felt from meeting students of various nationalities was a major factor in my decision to study European Languages and Business at Letterkenny IT.
I worked in Tourism and Marketing in Ireland, UK, France and Australia for 15 years before moving to Italy. Here, I completed my CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults) course, while teaching English and learning Italian. During my time there, I observed first hand, the workings of other language schools. This inspired me to return home and take the reins of DELS. Over the years, my role in the business has included teacher, marketing manager and in 2012 I became school Director.
It is of great satisfaction to me that DELS has grown in terms of numbers attending, the range of quality courses it offers, and the high academic standards it aspires to. Last year over 20% of students that came through our door were repeat customers.
Despite this expansion, I have never lost sight of the need for a specific approach to individual needs. My favourite part of the business is meeting students from all over the world and working together with my staff to provide a unique and memorable learning experience.
My day-to-day role is very hands on and includes sales, marketing, product development and recruitment. No one day is the same.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I love spending time with my two girls, going for a run or a surf
Is there a favourite place in Bundoran you like to go?
My favourite place of all is Tullan Strand. I grew up on the beach horse riding and it holds very special memories. This is where a lot of the surfing and horse riding activities take place for the students.
I’ve seen that you recently won an award, can you tell us a little more about it?
We were really delighted to win Best Established Business of Donegal 2015. This award was thanks to the hard work and dedication of the DELS team, the host families and local businesses that we work with. It also helps that we live in a really beautiful and wild part of the world.
What makes DELS different to any other language school in Ireland or specifically Dublin for example?
I think there are a few factors that sets us apart from the larger language schools including:
One of the key differentiators from DELS to other language schools is the personal investment and customer focused service that we offer. The staff and I take a hands on approach with all our clients to ensure they feel welcome and their stay is not just enjoyable but also memorable. We have a personal relationship with all host families, who each provide a home from home experience for our guests. We also have a great relationship with a range of local businesses that help in delivering DELS products. Each of the businesses also understand the need for a personal touch and are highly trained in delivering a professional service.
Quality of accommodation
We offer our adult clients a range of accommodation choices to suit their needs and budget.
The adult residential accommodation, Zephyr Lodge is currently listed as number one in Donegal on Trip Advisor under speciality lodgings. The accommodation is managed by my husband Mark, who ensures exceptional hospitality to all guests.
Our sister company, Portbeg Holiday Homes has over twenty five properties ranging from two – four bedroom. All are within a short distance of the town centre and local amenities. All accommodation comes fully equipped with all mod cons.
Students are names and not numbers
It is important to us that each student coming through the door feels that they are an individual and not a number. To ensure that this is followed through we keep small ratios throughout the different services.
- In the adult programme we have a maximum of ten per class, eight per coordinator and six per activity leader.
- In the junior programme we have a maximum of fourteen per class, ten per coordinator and eight per activity leader
We feel that our student ratios gives us a strong competitive edge and this is reflected in our high percentage of repeat business.
The Donegal Experience
We are currently the only accredited English language school operating in Donegal. We guarantee that each client receives the ‘Donegal Experience’ and a true insight into Ireland and our way of life. We are lucky to be situated in a stunning location on the Atlantic coast with the ocean in front of us and the mountains behind us. Donegal people also have a great warmth and hospitality which our clients love. This helps customers have a unique and memorable holiday which in turn leads to positive feedback, repeat custom and referrals